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U.S. News: Clayton State among top five Southern regional public schools

— While the rest of the state is watching to see when the University of Georgia will break into the top five ranked football teams, Clayton State University has quietly broken into a top five of its own.

Clayton State made its first appearance among the top five public regional colleges in the South in U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 edition of Best Colleges. That’s a subset of the top regional colleges, both public and private, where Clayton State sits at 55th overall.

Clayton State is the only Georgia school among the top five public regional colleges. Its in-state tuition is roughly a third to a fourth of what most private colleges on that same list charge.

The rankings were released last week online and will be published in U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 edition of Best Colleges, which will be on newsstands Tuesday.

One possible factor for Clayton State’s ranking among public college is its increasing freshman retention rate, according to university officials.

Clayton State associate vice president for enrollment Mark Daddona said that the rising retention rate, like the university’s rising enrollment, is a tribute to Clayton State’s efforts to serve first-year students. The school’s First Year Advising and Retention Center in particular keeps with University System initiatives and Gov. Nathan Deal’s Complete College Georgia program, said Daddona.

“The ratings reflect ongoing improvements in the success of our university and its students and the great efforts of our faculty and staff,” said Clayton State President Tim Hynes. “These improvements serve as the foundation for continued advancing of our mission, especially in areas of student success and alumni support. The ratings also reflect that those accomplishments are gradually being recognized by others. Under circumstances of shrinking resources, our faculty, staff and students continue their commitment to have learning and dreams realized.”

The U.S. News rankings are based on a variety of subjective and objective factors, including the opinions of high-school counselors and other university presidents.

Click here for U.S. News & World Report's ranking of regional colleges in the South